Comment & Opinion

UA checklist: How to tell if your ad partner can deliver

InfiApps' Tal Turpaz guides you through choosing the right ad partners for the job

UA checklist: How to tell if your ad partner can deliver

Peggy Anne Salz is the Content Marketing Strategist and Chief Analyst of MobileGroove.

Tal Turpaz is Head of advertising at InfiApps.

Whether you’re concerned by the claim from app platform company TUNE that over 20% of ad networks have significant fraud levels, or gearing up to work with the high-ranking ad networks listedin the latest Performance Index published by AppsFlyer, asking the right questions – and knowing the red flags – will help you decide whether you’re on the money, or likely to lose some.

Picking the “right” ad network for your app business goals is just part of the battle; you also need to be able to gauge results to determine if your chosen partner is the perfect fit.

To help on both counts Tal Turpaz – a recognised Liftoff Mobile Hero who heads up UA and app advertising at InfiApps in Israel – has identified what he calls the Six Major Factors.

His checklist, divided into three factors you need to consider before you start work with an ad network, and three after you review the first results, equips UA managers to ask tough questions – and evaluate the answers.

Tal recommends that UA managers mix it up. At one level, it’s a given that managers need to work with the major networks and the usual suspects (such as Facebook) that can practically guarantee a high volume of high-quality users.

But it’s important to remember that your competitors are likely making those same moves. “With so many ad networks, affiliates and ad exchanges out there that you can work with, why limit yourself?” he asks.

It’s why he urges managers to test and experiment – preferably with a test budget of between $10k to $20k with “at least three to four new partners a month.”

Some will work for the better, and others may not work out at all, Tal says, “but the alternative is to have all your ads in one or two baskets and that’s not a strategy that will move the needle on your app”.

Before: Essential checklist to help you choose:

As Tal sees it, success is about finding and using new ad network partners to complement, not replace, your pick of ad partners. It’s a smart approach that will allow you to set and reach stretch goals for your campaigns and – importantly – engage new audiences.

With so many ad networks, affiliates and ad exchanges out there, why limit yourself?
Tal Turpaz

But, before you choose your partners, make sure they measure up.

1. Data transparency

Check the data your ad partner is willing and able to share before you sign on. Some ad partners will share everything – down to the source that delivers your most valuable users – and others will only lift the lid on demographics.

The point is to make sure you have visibility into the data that is important for your app and campaigns. The better the data, the better equipped you are to make direct deals with the sources that provide you the best users. How can you find out where your ad network partner stands on data transparency?

Check out the website and ask the ad network provider direct questions about the data. “More data is better, but depth is best of all,” Tal explains.

2. Technology & intelligence

In mobile advertising information is power. More correctly, technology powers ad networks, and empowers them to deliver results, so try to look for partners that make the extra effort – and investments – to get the edge in adtech.

Machine learning, artificial intelligence and profiling are among the capabilities characteristic of ad networks that have (and can even help you build) a competitive advantage.

“From learning algorithms that help you optimize the user event, to creative engines that help you generate the right ad for the right placement, to platforms capable of connecting you to all the DSPs out there at the click of a button, technology is what you need to drive positive results for your app, and stay ahead of your competitors while you do it,” Tal says.

Find this out by doing your homework about ad networks and their adtech, and seek out companies that are pushing boundaries, not “buzz words".

3. Supported ad types

Playable ads, video ads, and new twists on interstitials – the range of ad types and formats you need to know and master is growing at a startling pace. While the failure of an ad network to support all the cool new formats should not be a deal breaker, it’s also not a plus.

“New ad types are gaining traction, driving increased engagement, reaching higher CTRs and delivering better user experiences, so you don’t want to stay in the past,” Tal stresses.

Mobile ad formats and approaches that top his personal watch list include rewarded video, playable ads, native ads and AR/VR – which, he says, are “in their infancy now but destined to be the next big thing".

After: What you watch for and why you can't compromise

Tal’s checklist equips you to choose an ad partner, but how can you tell if they are delivering the goods? Tal focuses on a mix of results and responsiveness, urging UA managers to watch the numbers before they pull the plug.

You don’t want to end a test with a new ad partner after 100 installs.
Tal Turpaz

“You don’t want to end a test with a new ad partner after 100 installs, because that’s not a sample that will allow your partner to show what their targeting and tech can really achieve.”

If, however, 2% to 4% of your users are not spending in your app after one to two days, then it may be better to close down your campaign altogether.

But this is more of a maybe than a must because Tal is also bullish about all the ways you can monetise users who don’t spend a penny in your app.

There are no hard and fast rules, but Tal also recommends UA managers look at retention rates for users who do convert “because if the retention among the users brought in by the network is low, then the potential to generate new money from these users will be even lower".

Being clear about your KPIs – whether you want to net spending whales or monetise engaged audiences – will help you focus on what matters as you review ad partner performance and decide whether to scale up, or cut loose.

1. Quality

It’s great to reach quality users, but it’s critical to know if you reached your goals. “Whether it’s ROI, eCPIs, install volumes or specific retention rates a quality partner will help you achieve what you set out to do, and provide data that allows you to determine how well you really did,” Tal says.

Harness these insights to “wash, rinse, repeat” your success. If you fell short of your goals, use the data to optimise your campaigns. If, after that, you’re still not getting the quality you want, then don’t take all the blame.

Tal stresses that a good ad network partner will know where you got quality users and assist you with the tweaks and adjustments necessary to get more of the same.

2. Volume

If you’re happy with the quality of the users your ad network partner can deliver, then the way is clear to move UA efforts into overdrive. You want to work with a network that can deliver quality users at scale, and you want to avoid a trade-off between volume and value.

If volume is on the rise but user quality isn’t keeping the pace, then it’s a sign you shouldn’t ignore. “You want to investigate the data and optimize for quantity and quality,” Tal explains. “If quality continues to drop, then re-evaluate the partnership.”

3. Responsiveness

Money never sleeps. If your ad network partner fails to provide you timely insights about what is working and what isn’t, consider it a dangerous disconnect and proceed with caution.

If your campaign is crushing it, you want a responsive ad network partner that can turn up the dial and upscale activity by opening up new geos, sharpening segmentation or advise on the new daily budget you need to spend.

Likewise, if your campaign isn’t performing as well as it should, you want an ad partner who knows the levers to push – and when.

It’s crucial to work with a partner that can change daily caps, pause campaigns or help you decide what to do.
Tal Turpaz

“It’s crucial to work with a partner that can change daily caps, pause campaigns or help you decide what to do before you lose more money,” Tal says.

Responsiveness doesn’t have to be real-time (and if you’re using self-serve, it won’t be), but communications should be prompt, professional and pinpoint what needs to be done before it’s too late.

The takeaway:

Effective UA requires you to balance between your demand for sure-fire results and your desire to explore and experiment with new ad network partners – before your rivals beat you to it.

Use Tal’s checklist at the most critical stages in your search for the right ad partner: when you are considering which ad network to work with and when you are deciding whether to commit to a deeper relationship.

It’s definitely smart to mix it up in order to test new ad network partners and tap new markets. But it’s even smarter if you know what to expect and when to demand.

Mobile Groove - Founder, Analyst & Content Strategist